BONUS TRACKS: (Some) Festivals Add Vaccine Requirements, and Country Hall of Fame Adds Inductees
Got a fest on your calendar? Better go get that (safe and effective, according to actual health experts) vaccine. (Photo by Marcus Millo / Getty Images Pro)
With September bearing an absolutely packed roots music festival calendar, events have had some big decisions to make lately regarding their COVID-19 safety policies. This week brought a ton of announcements regarding vaccination and/or negative test requirements. Hitting just a few of the highlights:
- MerleFest, which shifted its usual spring festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, to Sept. 16-19 for 2021, announced it will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours for entry.
- FreshGrass | North Adams announced the same requirement for the festival in western Massachusetts Sept. 24-26, as has FreshGrass | Bentonville in Arkansas on Oct. 1-2. (Both events are presented by the FreshGrass Foundation, which also operates No Depression.)
- The Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival in Franklin, Tennessee, Sept. 25-26 is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test within 48 hours.
- The International Bluegrass Music Association is requiring proof of vaccination, with no exceptions, for ticketed events during its World of Bluegrass conference and festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, Sept. 28-Oct. 2.
AmericanaFest, set for Nashville Sept. 22-25, has not yet announced any additional safety protocols. Its website FAQs say the number of passes sold is limited and participating venues’ health precautions will be followed. Many of those venues recently announced a vaccine or test requirement. DelFest, taking place in Cumberland, Maryland, Sept. 23-26, has said on social media that organizers are “working to finalize” their guidelines, and this week advised followers that they were running out of time to get fully vaccinated before the festival’s opening day. (The CDC advises that “fully vaccinated” means two weeks after the second dose of the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, which need to be administered 21 or 28 days apart, respectively, or the single dose Johnson & Johnson.)
The ROMP Festival, presented by the Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Museum Sept. 15-18 in Owensboro, Kentucky, has not shared any information about COVID-19 precautions of any kind. The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, slated for Sept. 10-12, presented by the Birthplace of Country Music nonprofit, issued a statement saying it had concluded that it would not be able to impose a vaccination or test requirement based on Tennessee state law. Without such requirements in place, first Jason Isbell, then Yola, announced they would not be playing the event as previously scheduled because of safety concerns.
Likewise, Neil Young announced Wednesday he will not be performing for Farm Aid next month, despite being a board member, because of concerns about the Delta variant and surging COVID cases. “My soul tells me it would be wrong to risk having anyone die because they wanted to hear music and be with friends,” he said. It was to be his first public performance since 2019’s Farm Aid. Read more about his decision via Rolling Stone.
Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival has decided to shift online for another year, offering three days of free livestreamed performances Oct. 1-3. Among the headliners are Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Mavis Staples, and Béla Fleck.
Live Nation, the largest concert promoter in the US, has joined competitor AEG in requiring proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test starting Oct. 4, following a model it says it developed for Lollapalooza (which a top health official in Chicago recently said did not appear to have been a superspreader event). Live Nation’s policy covers artists as well, unlike AEG’s. Read more about the policy via NBC.
Bob Dylan is the subject of a lawsuit claiming he sexually abused a 12-year-old girl in 1965, a charge a spokesperson for Dylan said in a statement “is untrue and will be vigorously defended.” You can read the basics about the lawsuit at CNN, and Rolling Stone offers an overview of some timeline and travel arguments historians and superfans have scurried to deliver. But the courts are where matters of justice should be decided, no matter how much we like someone’s music, which I think some “Dylanologists” would do well to keep in mind.
The Country Music Hall of Fame announced its latest class of inductees: Ray Charles, The Judds, pedal steel player Pete Drake, and drummer Eddie Bayers. To honor the occasion, Rolling Stone shared its 2019 story about Charles’ impact on country music that is well worth a read (or reread). You can read more about all the inductees, and their reactions to the honor, at Billboard. The induction ceremony is scheduled for spring 2022.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Nanci Griffith – Other Voices, Other Rooms
Waxahatchee – “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” from Home in This World: Woody Guthrie’s Dustbowl Ballads, coming in September
Jesse Daniel – “Gray”
Kevin Morby – Campfire [4 track demo]
Suzanne Santo – “Mercy,” from her new album, Yard Sale, out next week
The War and Treaty – “Take Me In”